Rothery Sullivan makes the case for abandoning daylight savings.
Daylight Savings occurs twice a year. We all feel the effects when the clocks go back an hour in the autumn and forward an hour in the spring. The intention of the time change is to preserve as much daylight as possible in the winter by allowing for one more hour of sunlight in the morning; consequently, though, this takes an hour of sunlight from the afternoon. In Glasgow, where a usual December and January sunset occurs around 3:30pm, this change is significant, and the students of Scotland may be suffering the consequences.
Studies have shown many negative impacts of the time change. Specifically, the change in amount of daylight we have is known to cause an increase in heart problems, motor vehicle collisions and mood disorders such as depression. For students especially, this is concerning; we are typically under the huge pressure of getting a degree, working a part time job and/or society and social commitments. The negative ramifications of daylight savings will only add to this stress by causing more anxiety and depression which, in turn, will negatively affect students’ physical health. And, with motor accidents already a serious issue among younger people, the added risk does not seem worth the extra hour of morning sunlight.
Moreover, the increase in depression has a direct effect on students’ academic performance. You know that late November/March feeling when the weight of deadlines and exams is piling up but you still struggle to get out of bed? The time changes during these months are to blame. The early setting sun throws off people’s sleep patterns which make it difficult to be productive, especially during exam season in December. The time changes may cause sleep problems due to circadian rhythms not being aligned with more “natural” cycles of light and darkness. This can cause insomnia symptoms, especially in the spring, which we all know is one of the most challenging times of the academic year. With motivation slipping and our bodies growing tired, no wonder many students suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that occurs in the winter months.
Seasonal depression is typically first seen in those in their 20s and 30s, and it includes symptoms such as anxiety, hopelessness and lethargy. Although this mental health issue is not directly caused by daylight savings, it’s clear that it isn’t helping, as can be seen by the fact that light therapy is a form of treatment. Students who wake up later in the morning only experience a few hours of sunlight each day in the winter, which will hugely impact their mental health.
Moreover, the lack of sunlight limits many outdoor socials that students enjoy, such as outdoor sports, walks and picnics. If you cast your mind back to the end of the tier-four lockdowns, that proved that those of us in Scotland are willing to brave the cold weather if it means being able to enjoy a pint outside with our friends. When the sun sets before classes even get out, though, this is nearly impossible.
Finally, the impacts of daylight savings negatively impact family members, too. Knowing that a close friend or family member is suffering each winter can provide a further strain on student’s ability to focus on their course work and enjoy all the great things university has to offer. With cold, dark climates already linked to heavier drinking, the loss of an hour of sunlight in the afternoon will only make matters worse. The negative effects of Daylight Savings harm everyone, but especially those in climates that already experience less sunlight.
Although brought on with good intentions, daylight savings has many ramifications that are negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of student life. Although some places in the world have already eradicated the time change, such as Japan, China and India, the UK is yet to do so. One extra hour of sunlight in the afternoon may not seem like much, but it could change the wellbeing of many. Why wait for spring to enjoy the sunshine when we could have a little more year round?